Some of the protesters who gathered in Tampere on Independence Day were armed with hockey sticks and wore shoulder pads and helmets. Police resorted to pepper spray as protests in Tampere on Independence Day turned violent.

TWENTY-EIGHT people remained in police lock-ups in Tampere at midday Saturday, after a demonstration on Independence Day turned violent. The majority of the protesters were to be released later on Saturday after interrogations and are likely to be handed fines.

Most of the people who took part in the demonstration near the Tampere Hall, the site of this year's Presidential Independence Day Reception, were not from Tampere, the police underlined in a press conference on Saturday morning.

According to Markku Luoma, the chief of the Tampere Police Department, the group that ran riot in the nearby Sorsapuisto park were “a gang of goons” that were intent on vandalising. Instead of a demonstration, the illegal gathering should rather be described as aggressive behaviour, he also suggested.

During the press conference, the police also shed light on the forcible measures resorted to by officers during Friday's events and the offences committed by the protesters.

Chief inspector Harri Nojonen, who was in charge of the police operation on Friday, reminded that the police tried until the last minute to contact the organisers of the demonstration with no success. He in turn described the demonstrators as activists with anarchist tendencies.

He also affirmed that the officers did their utmost not to provoke the protesters but were eventually compelled to use pepper spray and batons against them.

The protesters' attempt to scale the security fences erected in Sorsapuisto came as a surprise to the officers. “The whole group suddenly lunged for the security fence. It was an obvious attempt to make it to the [Tampere] Hall,” Nojonen said.

As the protesters lunged at the fence, police officers were hit with ice hockey sticks and had bottles thrown at them. Two of the three police officers injured are now on sick leave.

Nojonen also viewed that the lives and well-being of the guests in the Tampere Hall would have been in danger, had the officers not been able to confine the protesters.

Jukka Harju – Helsingin Sanomat
Aleksi Teivainen – Helsinki Times
© Helsingin Sanomat
PHOTO: Kaisa Rautaheimo / HS